Skip to main content

Full text of "My country and my people"

THE    CHINESE    CHARACTER              j!
dictum of Chinese political philosophy and formula for solving all Chinese party differences by saying "When there is rice, let everybody share it." President Li was a grim realist without knowing it, and he spoke wiser than he knew when he was thus giving an economic interpretation of current Chinese history. The economic interpretation of history is not new to the Chinese people, nor is the biologic interpretation of human life of the Emile Zola school. With Zola, it is an intellectual fad, but with us it is a matter of national consciousness. In China one does not have to learn to become a realist: here one is born a realist. President Li Ytianhung was never noted for power of cerebration, but, as a Chinese, he instinctively felt that all political problems are not, and should not be, anything but problems of the rice-bowl. As a Chinese, he gave thus the profoundest explanation of Chinese politics of which I know. This nonchalant and materialistic attitude is based on the very shrewd view of life to which only old people and old nations can attain. It would be futile for young men under thirty to understand it, as it is futile for young nations of the West to try to appreciate it. Perhaps it was no mere accident that the very name of Laotse, the author of Taotehking, the Bible of Taoism, means an "old man."1 Someone has said that every man past forty is a crook. Anyway, it is undeniable that the older we grow, the more shameless we become. Young girls of twenty seldom marry for money; women of forty seldom marry for anything else—"security" is perhaps the word they call it. It is by no mere whim that, in Greek mythology, young Icarus was made to fly too high until the wax of his wings melted and he fell into the sea, while Daedalus, the old father, flew low, but flew safely home. When a man grows old, he develops a genius for flying low, and idealism is tempered with cool, level-headed common sense, as well as with a sense for dollars and pennies. Realism is, then, characteristic of old age, as idealism is characteristic of youth. When a man is past forty and does not become a crook, he is either feebleminded or a genius. To the latter class belong the "big children,"
iThis old man, around the sixth century B.C., was riding a donkey through the Hankukuan Pass, and saying good-bye to the world, when he was begged to leave the five thousand words of TaoteWmg for the enlightenment of his fellow-men.